Laurier scared and uncertain, but trying their best

After attending Laurier’s return-to-campus Q&A session on Friday, Jan. 28, I have mixed feelings. Among these feelings, the dominant emotion is gratitude. 

However, I have my issues with the actions Laurier is taking as we return to in-person learning which I’d like to address before defending the administration. One complaint is in regard to the inclusion of “enhanced security” to enforce student mask-wearing in common spaces. This seems excessive and unnecessary.

It also seems like Laurier is entertaining paranoia and notions of inflated risk to student safety as we return to campus.

Many of the questions asked during the Q&A expressed concern about student safety as we return to in-person learning.

Faculty safety is one thing, but student safety? As students, we are statistically one of the safest demographics in this pandemic, with the exception of our immunocompromised colleagues. For those of us who fall into the vast majority of healthy young people,  physical safety for our own sake should not be our top concern, especially since we are required to be vaccinated in order to return to campus. 

I get it. Laurier is between a rock and a hard place. Whether we, as students, like it or not, Laurier’s public image is vital to their success as an organization. An outbreak of COVID-19 on campus would create a flurry of bad press, spawn allegations of administrative negligence and label Laurier as a threat to public health.

If Laurier is seen to be not taking proper action to enforce provincial mask-wearing mandates and social distancing rules, the administration would be in hot water. While it angers me to think that security will be patrolling campus forcing students to wear their masks, we must understand that Laurier is trying to protect themselves from Public Health liability. 

Despite these unfortunate realities, there is much to be grateful for! Returning to in-person learning is a huge cause for celebration.

Laurier is offering many of their student services in a hybrid model, such as the Accessibility Learning Centre, the Writing Centre, Math and Statistics Support, Study Skills Workshops and Career Development.

The hybrid model for these student services will be reevaluated at the end of February where they will hopefully be rolled out fully in-person. Administration also seemed accommodating to student needs and spoke of increasing study spaces on campus if need be. 

Another cause for gratitude is Laurier’s vaccine policy. Laurier is not reducing the number of eligible students for in-person learning by requiring students to receive a COVID-19 booster shot (although they encourage it). 

During the undergraduate Q&A session, it was apparent that the administrative individuals on the question panel care about the well-being of students and will do what it takes to accommodate our success with in-person learning.

In a touching sentiment, Provost and Vice-President Dr. Tony Vannelli spoke to the resiliency of students during the pandemic and acknowledged how difficult things have been for many of us during COVID-19. 

When asked about why plans for returning to campus have taken much longer than elementary and high schools, Vice-President of Student Affairs Ivan Joseph re-emphasized Laurier’s commitment to health and safety and recognized their duty to ensure their protocols will be safe, effective and coherent with rapidly changing Public Health guidelines. Although Laurier wants to take caution and ensure the safety of those on campus, Dr. Ivan Joseph stressed that  “We hope to be up and running as soon as we can.” 

As a student throughout this pandemic, there’s a lot to complain about. But there’s also plenty to be grateful for. Although Laurier has earned its fair share of legitimate criticism, I would like to praise their plans for returning to campus and look forward to seeing many of you in-person once again.

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